Skip to comments.Supreme Court says double jeopardy does not protect against murder retrial
Posted on 05/24/2012 8:08:26 PM PDT by Olog-hai
Arkansas may retry a man for murder even though jurors in his first trial were unanimous that he was not guilty, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Alex Blueford, who is accused of killing his girlfriends 1-year-old son, is not protected by the Constitutions Double Jeopardy Clause, the court ruled in a 6 to 3 decision.
Because the judge dismissed the jury when it was unable to reach agreement on lesser charges, Blueford was not officially cleared of any of the charges, the majority said, and thus may be retried.
The jury in this case did not convict Blueford of any offense, but it did not acquit him of any either, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote.
The decision brought a sharp dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan.
Bluefords jury had the option to convict him of capital and first-degree murder, but expressly declined to do so, Sotomayor wrote. That ought to be the end of the matter.
The Double Jeopardy Clause is found in the Constitutions Fifth Amendment and commands that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb for the same offense.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
Yes, my non-attorney opinion reaches the same conclusion. Otherwise you’re on the slippery slope where mistrials and the like have to go as well.
The judge sent the jurors back for more deliberations, but half an hour later the forewoman reported no verdict. The court declared a mistrial.
It was a mistrial. OF COURSE the scumbag can be retried.
The jury was charged with walking down a ladder of charges, beginning with the most serious charge and ending with the least serious (or, complete acquittal). The jury never concluded its work, a mistrial was declared, and it was only at this point that the judge banged his gavel. Just because this jury got stuck walking down the ladder doesn't mean they couldn't, upon further deliberation, walk back UP the ladder to the more serious charges.
Anyway, sorry, but, "the forewoman told the judge", just doesn't cut it.
Roberts wrote the opinion, 5 others agreed. Double jeopardy kicks in when it involves a legitimate acquittal, which I don’t believe ever existed. Just because a jury foreperson spoke in open court during deliberation and expressed the belief that the other jurors unanimously thought the defendant was not guilty of murder doesn’t constitute an acquittal. More deliberations followed after this statement and then the jury was dismissed. Each juror was never questioned as to their guilty or not guilty decision. Procedure must follow original intent, and I don’t see where this doesn’t.
That's an absurd statement on the face of it. I'll go with Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts, thank you very much. (Astonishingly, even Breyer stumbled into the correct decision this time.)
By the way, I have a theory that the three liberal Democrat women on this court voted the way they did because they see a conviction for the killing of a one-year old toddler as a threat, somehow, to partial birth abortion. I am pretty sure there's a tie-in to abortion.
But the Constitution has nothing to do with the way these three morons voted. The very idea is laughable.
It sounds like Arkansas law requires the jury return a verdict on all charges presented during trial, and until they do so, there is no verdict. The jury reported they were hung on one of the charges, manslaughter, therefor the Judge declared it a hung jury and ordered a retrial. Had they gone back and deliberated the manslaughter charge some more, a rehash of the evidence might have convinced them to change their minds on the murder charge.
The SCOTUS judgement really affirms Arkansas has the right to require its juries to render verdicts on ALL charges, or else require a retrial. This doesn’t seem unreasonable in that light. But ... whatever happened to requiring a jury to deliberate for as long as it takes ? It sounds like the judge dismissed the jury early in order to favor a retrial when they weren’t going to deliver the verdict HE wanted.
I you are acquited of murder, and they can’t agree on manslaughter and negligent homicide, then how can they retry you on that same event?
In my opinion, there’s something wrong with the prosecutor being able to list different kinds of charges for the same offense just to see which one sticks.
Sounds like the prosecutor is the problem, and that a system is the problem when it enables the prosecutor to get more than one bite at the apple to begin with.
If the guy thought it was murder then he should have charged murder, period. Or manslaughter. Or negligent homicide.
That appears to me to be the problem with the system. Prosecutors should have to decide on one trial. It sounds like he over-charged just as a gamble, and now he’s being rewarded for piling on.
The double jeopardy freedom should also preclude multiple charges for the same offense....to include the “violating civil rights” catch-all.
The Constitution says you can’t be tried twice for the same offense. The Courts have abrogated that part of the Constitution with technicalities. Its not that unusual for a person to be put on trial four or five times for the same offense. I know specifically a case where a woman was tried three times for the same alleged murder before she was finally acquitted.
Based on the nature of the jury instructions, the defendant was subject to double jeopardy because he was literally acquitted of the two murder charges but there was a hung jury on the non-murder charges. To try him again on the murder charges is clearly unconstitutional.
These are all the same incident, but different crimes. In many cases the prosecution will gamble and not bring a lesser included offense and only charge murder. In that case the jury would have to either convict, aquit or be hung. That is what happened in the Casey Anderson case. There was no option for a lesser included offense and the jury acquitted her. In this case the prosecutor opted to bring 3 lesser included offenses but there was no down side to the prosecutor to overcharge because if the jury were to do what they did and vote to acquit on the murder charges, but not be able to decide on the third, then the prosecutor would get a new bite at the apple on all charges.
The jury instructions prohibited the jury from even considering the negligent homicide charge unless they voted to acquit the defendant of the charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Based on the instructions given to the jury, they clearly rendered a verdict of not guilty of murder but because of the jury instructions they were not allowed to consider the crime of negligent homicide, which he was most likely clearly guilty of at the least.
Sotomayor's opinion is spot on and it is a pretty good example of a Supreme Court opinion that relies heavily on the intent of the founders in putting this clause in the constitution.
This case is a pretty scary precedent if you believe in the Constitution. To think that only Sotomayor, Kagan and Ginsberg were on board with the Founding Fathers on this case is pretty scary and is a good reason why I can never make a promise to a judge that if called as a juror that I will follow his instructions.
As you stated, this decision is one of the most blatant examples of style over substance.
You got that a little wrong. When the jury notified the judge that they were hung on the third charge, this was not a verdict; nor was the statement that they were unanimous on the first and second charges. And since they were hung on the third charge, in effect they rendered *no* verdict at all. Not guilty, not guilty, or innocent. Nothing.
At that point, when the judge declared a mistrial, it was as if the trial never happened, so the prosecution and defense were back to square 1.
The jury did not acquit. There is only one verdict for a trial that has been done when the jury has finished its deliberations. No such thing as an intermediate verdict. And since the jury hung on the third count, the trial was effectively over with a mistrial.
The only decision after that was the prosecutors, if he wanted to retry the case from the beginning with a new jury.
“How can you defend this decision? “
I will defend it.
Until the following happens in the courtroom:
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”
“Yes, we have...”
.... occurs, there is no “verdict”.
There is no “conviction”.
There is no “acquittal”.
A formality, yes — but in this case, it never happened. The trial never reached that point.
It is often heard said right here in this forum that “words mean things”.
In a court of law, so too do such things as “following procedure” have meaning and effect.
Double-jeopardy is a concept that protects an individual AFTER a verdict has been reached. In this case, the “procedure” never reached the point where a “verdict” was achieved.
Again, words (and procedures) mean things.
Right here on Free Republic we stress the importance of appointing judges to our courts who will not “bend” the rules of law to their liking, who will interpret the laws “strictly” as they have been written. This case is an illustration that with the Roberts Court, we are seeing those principles in action.
No legal verdict, no double jeopardy.
I can say I’m going to vote for candidate x all I want, but if I don’t actually go to the polling place and cast a legal ballot, it doesn’t count.
The same applies to juries. A poll of jurors in the course of deliberations without reaching a lawful verdict is just opinion. Procedures matter. Or would you like to have someone convicted on an informal straw poll instead of following the proper procedure?
The law in question may or may not be a good, or even a just law, but that is not the question. The question is does the law in question violate the right against double jeopardy? The answer is no, it may be a procedural technicality but it is a real distinction.
The defendant was charged with 4 crimes. The court was advised that the jury had, in fact, reached unanimous verdicts of NOT GUILTY on the two murder charges.
In a court of law, so too do such things as following procedure have meaning and effect.
And in the Constitution the rule against being twice put in jeopardy for the same crime has an effect. In this case the jury had reached a verdict, but because of non-constitutionally mandated procedures (which are clearly not constitutional BTW) the defendant will have to face jeopardy again on charges which the jury had unanimously determined him to be not guilty of.
One thing I have noticed about so-called conservative justices. They are conservative on economic issues and they argue for original intent, but in criminal cases, they tend to ignore the original intent of the framers and tend to support procedures which favor prosecutors. In other words in criminal cases they rely more on Stare Decisis than the words of the constitution and in economic or civil issues they tend to be originalists, relying more on the actual words and meanings of the constitution and its founders.
In this case Roberts gave short shrift to the original intent and instead relied heavily on a definition of "Verdict" that was entirely procedural and not substantive at all. In substance the defendant was undoubtedly acquitted of the crime of Murder whereas procedurally the judge in the case gave instructions which prohibited the jury from actually entering that verdict into the record.
Trying the defendant a second time on the murder charges is clearly a violation of the intent of the founders in drafting the double jeopardy clause. Of that I do not believe there is a legitimate argument to the contrary and Roberts never addressed that issue in his opinion. Instead he relied solely on the procedural aspect of the case in which the jury did not "officially" find the defendant not guilty and he ignored the FACT that the jury had indeed reached a verdict of not guilty on that charge.
Can you argue your position using the actual words of the Constitution and the statements of the founders in drafting that clause? Or are you just going to argue that since the jury's unanimous not guilty verdict was not entered into the record that there is no such thing as double jeopardy in this case.
The irony is that if the prosecution had charged the defendant solely on a count of murder and the jury acquitted him, the prosecution could certainly NOT then come back and say, “Okay, that didn’t work - - let’s try manslaughter and see if that works”. Because THAT would be double jeopardy. In other words, had the judge declared “Not guilty!” on a charge of murder, banged his gavel, and dismissed the jury, the case would be over and the defendant would never be vulnerable to charges - - any charges - - for that same crime again.
The Supreme Court was apparently reluctant to parse its ruling down to a matter of semantics, ie., the names and words used for the charges. The jury must conclude its work or it is a mistrial. If the jury does not conclude its work and there is a mistrial, then how could it be considered reasonable to bind the hands of the next jury that will have to deliberate on the same case?
They would not be binding the hands of the next jury, they would be binding the hands of the prosecutor in the next trial by prohibiting the prosecutor from charging the crime of murder.
The stipulated facts in this case were that the jury clearly and unequivocally voted unanimously to acquit the defendant of murder. The mistrial was called because they could not reach a decision on whether he was guilty of voluntary manslaughter. They never even were allowed to take a vote on the charge of negligent homicide.
Here the prosecution gets a second bite at the apple when the first jury voted to acquit. I don't understand how anyone can't see that this is double jeopardy.
For the first time in her career Sotomayor has written an opinion with which I am in total agreement. Roberts has issued an opinion strong on procedure and short on constitutional analysis.
Precisely. As stated in an earlier post, "the forewoman told the judge...", doesn't cut it.
Actually a more apropos analogy would be that you went to the polling place and you did cast your vote for president, but the Secretary of State refused to count your vote because you didn't vote for a school board candidate and your ballot was invalid because you left part of your ballot blank.
Here the jury did cast their vote on the murder charges. The voted to acquit. They left the ballot blank on the manslaughter charges.
You know, that's an interesting point. I hadn't thought about that. It would require a major shift in current legal procedure though, because there could no longer be a mistrial, ever, unless it was declared on the first day.